ROANOKE, Va. — I can remember early in my career as a laundry supervisor having someone tell me this: “Happy is the man who can keep his head when all is falling down around him because he has found someone or something to blame for the problem.” I laughed and thought it was cute at the time, but over the last 40 years, I have learned the truth of this statement.
Sitting in a coaching session with an employee, I had to explain why I considered that individual’s performance lacking and what could be done to improve. I made sure that I communicated the problems clearly and precisely. I was factual and careful to keep the discussion based on the employee’s output or work routine.
I took the extra time to ask follow-up questions about our discussion to make sure the employee understood what was said. Then I asked the person if he had any questions. I was surprised to hear him say, “Why don’t you like me? No one else has ever thought I needed to change. What is wrong with you?”
In the above situation, the poorly performing employee found someone to blame for his performance issues. By assigning the blame to their supervisors, employees have absolved themselves of all need to change and squarely put the blame on someone else.
Unfortunately, if they do not take personal responsibility for their own actions and productivity, they will eventually get fired. But they will still have someone to blame, so their self-worth or personal ego remains undamaged.
I have visited a number of laundries over the years that were underperforming. Each manager was always quick to point out the “why” behind the poor performance—“I need to hand-fold too much linen” or “I lack the space needed to set up proper workflow.”
Perhaps it is an automatic feeder or a blanket folder that would be helpful in improving the throughput of the laundry. The line normally goes, “I could do so much better with this or that, but they will not let me have it.” Once again, the manager has a person or a situation to blame.
What needs to be done is to set the excuses aside and work on doing the best you can with what you have. If your performance as an employee is not measuring up, work on improving your performance.
Talk to your fellow employees and see how they can regularly beat your performance. Perhaps they have learned a trick or created a procedure that is faster than you are currently doing the work. You will find that people want to help those who want to do a better job and improve their performance.
If you are a manager, do the best you can with the equipment and personnel you are given. Do not accept the current performance level as the best as it can be. Especially never tell your boss or your employees that the reason we cannot be as productive as everyone else is because of this or that. Employees will hear the reason and perform at a lower level because your statement has given them permission to do so.
As a manager, you have so many factors that you can control in almost any situation. You control the length of the wash formula, the amount you wash per wash load, whether you pre-sort or post-sort, the laundry chemicals you use, the amount you use, the type of linen you buy (high-cotton versus high-polyester), the number of linen items in your system, production standards, drying times, cool-down times, ironer speed, pre-shaking the flatwork items, or working directly from a cart. The list goes on and on.
All managers can fine-tune their operations based on their willingness and focus on doing what is best for production. Small changes in one area may make a dramatic difference in another. This fine-tuning process will not take place if you have already found a person or thing to blame.